Earlier victory vs. Black Knights is only win in conference
With no seniors and only three juniors, Navy has one of the youngest rosters in Division I. With 24 players, Army has the largest roster in Division I.
If ever there was a year the Midshipmen could be excused for struggling against the Black Knights, this was it. But when the teams meet before a sellout crowd in Annapolis on Saturday, Navy has a chance to complete a sweep of Army for just the second time in a decade.
The inexperience of Navy (7-18, 1-8) has been reflected in its results. All eight of its Patriot League losses have come by at least nine points. But four weeks ago at West Point, the Midshipmen rose up for their lone conference win in two seasons 59-50.
|Army at Navy|
|When » Saturday, 2 p.m.|
|Where » Alumni Hall,|
|TV » CBSSN|
The difference was 3-point shooting. Navy sophomores Worth Smith (16 points) and Kevin Alter (14 points) hit a combined six of seven shots from beyond the arc, while Army went 2-for-20. It was the Black Knights' worst 3-point shooting performance in conference play in four seasons under coach Zach Spiker. Navy is shooting a Patriot League-low 28.7 percent from 3-point range in conference play compared with 38.5 percent for Army. The Mids know the chances are slim that they again will hit 11 3-pointers or that Army will fire as many blanks.
"We haven't made shots all year," Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. "They've proven they can make shots. They just didn't make them that [game]. We don't expect them to go two of 20 again."
This has been a strong year for Army (11-13, 4-5), which still has a chance to notch its first winning season since 1984-85. At Lafayette on Wednesday night, the Black Knights smoked the Leopards for the second time 85-68 on the strength of 13-for-24 shooting from beyond the arc. Josh Herbeck came off the bench to make three of five shots from 3-point range. The junior guard, who was the Black Knights' top outside threat last year, is back after missing 11 games with an injury.
Navy also welcomes back one of its top 3-point threats. Freshman Kendall Knorr, a 37.2 percent shooter from beyond the arc, returns after missing four games with a dislocated shoulder.
Spiker makes full use of his huge roster to run his uptempo, spread-the-floor offense. Thirteen players average eight or more minutes, and five of them have made at least 20 3-pointers. Freshmen guards Kyle Wilson (43.1 percent) and Kyle Toth (40.2 percent) are the most accurate Black Knights from beyond the arc. Senior Ella Ellis (39.2 percent) is the most prolific with 51 3-pointers.
Smith and Ellis, both 6-foot-6 and the best players on their respective teams, were matched up in the first game. Smith outplayed Ellis (15 points, three rebounds), who eventually fouled out. Considering Smith's fellow starters made only three of 23 shots, Navy was fortunate to win.
"There were games early in the year where we didn't play hard. But that hasn't happened lately," Smith said. "The whole thing with us has been shooting."